March 30, 2013

Fancy Toys

A few weeks ago, I was riding a bicycle in Bagan, Burma, and holding our trusty Canon G10 camera (which we've had for over 4 years). A tourist man in a horse buggy was coming the opposite direction and his cane fell through the carriage to the street. He was panicked about it and, as the driver struggled to get the horses stopped, I noticed cars coming towards his cane in the street. So, I jumped off my bike to retrieve his cane. That was nice of me, right? But then I tripped over my bike and landed face down in the street, tangled in the bars and wheels of the bicycle. As I crashed down, so did our camera and the LCD screen shattered. Oops.

Back in Bangkok, we took it to a Canon store and they said it could be fixed, but that it would take FOUR WEEKS! We don't have that kind of time so, because we had been thinking about upgrading our photography equipment for quite some time, we pulled the trigger and started looking for a new toy.
Don't worry - we'll get the G10 fixed when we're back home. The camera still works.
It's just the back panel that needs replaced.
Lucky for us, our local mall in Bangkok (our friend, Jerome's, apartment sort of felt like home to us) was having a huge photography event, so we were able to try out all the newest cameras and technology from Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Polaroid, Olympus, etc... After doing research and playing around for a few days, we decided to stick with Canon and get the new Canon Rebel T3i (600D) with a 135mm lens.

The Rebel T3i is a significan jump for us in terms of price, capabilities and quality of photograph. And we're just now starting to learn the tiniest bit about photography, so bear with us. For the most part, we have no idea what we're doing and we just turn things and push buttons until we end up with a photo that doesn't burn our eyes and, hopefully, gives you a good idea of where we are and what we're seeing. So far, we're loving the camera and having a blast taking photos. It takes some work but, when we get it right, it's SO worth it!

We're hoping you see an improvement in our photos - we even picked up an additional lens (a 50mm for portraits and landscapes) and bought the Photoshop Lightroom software to start doing some photo editing. (Note: We didn't start using this camera until we arrived in Koh Lanta, Thailand, so you should hopefully see an upgrade beginning with that post and those pictures.) We also still have our Panasonic Lumix TS-20 Tough (which we LOVE) and our GoPro Hero HD2 (which we like).

So, talented friends and family (especially those of you whose photography skills make us swoon), if you have any suggestions, send them our way!

March 27, 2013

I Almost Kidnapped Several Burmese Children. But In A Nice Way. (Kyaukme, Burma)

True story.

Adorable children is one of the many reasons why our time in Kyaukme was the highlight of our time in Burma. The other reasons? Read on, Reader Friend.

We knew we wanted to spend a few days trekking while we were in Burma, but we wanted to avoid Kalaw and Hsipaw, popular backpacking routes that we've heard are crowded with hundreds of other trekkers. (Side note: When Tom was in Burma  10 years ago, he got super sick in Kalaw and couldn't go on the trek he had planned, so we were hoping to avoid a repeat of that experience.) Luckily, our friend, Karen from San Francisco, had just visited Burma a few months before us and had highly recommended Kyaukme (pronounced Chow-may), just south of Hsipaw, and a trekking guide, Moe Set. Her email about Moe Set was absolutely glowing and talked about how people like Moe Set are going to change Burma. So, with that kind of recommendation, our plans were set and we hopped a bus from Mandalay (read about our time in Mandalay here) to Kyaukme. 
Some adorable Burmese're intrigued now, aren't you? You're going to read the rest of the post, right?

Chuck Norris Dim Sum (in Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

We've been saving pics of funny signs and tshirts and menu items since we've been traveling and our plan is to put together a fun video or slideshow at some point. However, I just couldn't keep this from you for even 24 hours.

Why yes! That is Chuck Norris Dim Sum!
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 23, 2013

A Quick Stop in Mandalay, Burma

After Yangon (read here), we decided to head to Mandalay and booked a VIP bus to get there. Lucky for us, it was one of the nicest bus journeys of the entire trip (cold towels, a hostess, and free water and snacks). We didn't want to get off!
U Bein's Bridge Sneak Peek
In Mandalay, we met two motorcycle taxi drivers at the bus station who were really funny and charming and who managed to convince Steph, despite her previous rule of "no motorbikes," that we should go with them. They took us to our hotel, Mother's World, and turned out to be really nice. On the 20 minute ride, Steph and her driver, Cinco, bonded so we booked them to take us around the sights of Mandalay the following day.

March 19, 2013

Beach Porn

Just a little eye candy for you today! This pic was taken on an uninhabited beach in the Similan Islands off Thailand. The sand on these islands is so fine it feels like baking flour. Unbelievable! (Spoiler Alert: We just spent 5 fantastic days and nights on a liveaboard SCUBA dive boat! Update coming soon!)

Photo by Adam Slater

March 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Lauren!

Remember back in January when it was my BFF's birthday and I made her that really sweet video? (Read here.) Well, I'm a lucky gal because I actually have lots of fantastic friends and, in particular, two amazing BFFs - BFF Ashley of the January video, and BFF Lauren - and we're all turning 30 this year. To be honest, I've been absolutely wrecked that I'm missing all the celebrations and won't be spending my own 30th with my leading ladies (coming up on April 8...mark your calendars).

BFF Lauren's birthday is March 17 - St. Patrick's Day - and this girl LOVES a good party, so it's always been a big deal. In fact, we've always made any birthday a big celebration - coming up with fun plans, giving great gifts, visiting new places. In college, we would dress up in matching outfits or costumes and act even more ridiculous than on a normal night. After college, we've visited Chicago, she's flown out to San Francisco to surprise me, and we've scoured Etsy/CraftBlogs for the perfect gift to exchange. The fact is that, while Tom is wonderful and Lauren's boyfriend John is equally amazing - they aren't quite as in to birthdays as we are, so we look to each other to give us the birthday boost we need. All of our friends make birthdays a big deal, and it's been KILLING me to not be there for her's.

A few days ago, our friends, her family, and her boyfriend threw her a surprise party (she wasn't expecting her party for several days) with a Dynasty theme, and they surprised her with this video from me.

My awesome friend, Amy, took a video of Lauren watching the video I made her (confused yet?) and I could tell that she loved it! I have to admit that I'm super sad that I missed her party, and I cried watching the video of her watching the video because she (of the underactive tear ducts) actually cried watching it! Lauren is just one of those people who words doesn't do justice. You have to know her and to be the lucky recipient of her friendship to understand what a gift it is.

I never want to know what life is like without her - so I'll always value her friendship.

Note: She's also funnier than anyone I've ever met (even you).


March 16, 2013

Blogabond Travel Map

As the list of the places we've visited on this trip gets longer and longer, we've been looking for a way to share our route with you in an easy way. I found Blogabond and gave it a go and you can now see the travel map on the "Where in the World" tab on the blog. 

It's not perfect and I'm not sure I like it yet. Ideally, each stop would list the place's name, and it would be nice if the route line could be different depending on the mode of transportation used to get there. (Dashed for flying, Dotted for bus, etc...) If you find another travel map widget that can be added to a Blogger blog, let me know!

In the meantime, click on the map to zoom in, or click on "more" in the bottom left-hand corner to be taken directly to our Blogabond page.

Loose Of Limits Reviews

Maybe you noticed a little change on the blog recently (but you probably didn't). Loose Of Limits has created a Reviews page! Woot!

Over the course of a year, we are going to visit a lot of hotelsrestaurants, and tourist attractions. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are downright ugly. This is our attempt at sharing our reviews.

March 15, 2013

A Shweddy-gon Time in Yangon (Yangon, Burma)

When I first met Tom (NINE YEARS AGO THIS WEEK!), I was amazed by how much of the world he had seen. I'd never known anyone who had traveled as much as he, and it was a dizzying prospect. (Read about some of his past travels here.) So I took notice when he told me that, of all the places he had traveled to, Burma was at the top of the list. He said that Burma was the most interesting place he had ever visited - that the contradiction of the Buddhist community ruled by the military police provided a fascinating culture. Since then, I've been devouring any information that came my way about Burma (or Myanmar, as it's officially known) and hoping I would make my way there some day. Because Tom loved it so much around the first time, and because I have been so eager to experience it for myself, we knew Burma was on our must-do list for The Trip.

In case you're wondering, Tom and I choose to call the country Burma, though you'll find it on maps and officially listed as Myanmar. Most of the people want the country to be called 'Burma,' so we defer to the wish of the wonderful Burmese people. If you're unfamiliar with the recent political history of Burma, read here.
Novice nuns outside Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

A Koh Samed Refresh (Koh Samed, Thailand...and a bit of Bangkok)

After 3.5 months in India (India Wrap-Up post coming soon), we were in serious need of some wind-down time. Our biggest goal was to do nothing and to do it in the sun, on the beach, with a cocktail in-hand. So, on January 26, we flew to Bangkok, where we spent a few days in Bangkok with our friend, Jerome, who's British but has lived there for several years. He lives in a great corporate apartment in Sukhomvit neighborhood and we LOVED having our own room, a kitchen, air conditioning, a pool on the roof for a few days of R&R, and Hangover 2 jokes. While in Bangkok, we ran several errands and ate super tasty food, slept in, and arranged for our Burmese visa. Near Jerome's apartment, there's a shopping center where each floor is based on a famous world city. There are 2 San Francisco floors, and it nearly broke my heart in half to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. 
Jerome and me

The Swains at the GGB

March 14, 2013

We're Catching Up...We Promise!

...In the meantime, check out this video I made of a bunch of hippies in Arambol.

Ugh...Shave your armpits! Put some clothes on your baby! "Fire twirling" is not an applicable life skill!

Read about our time in Arambol here.
Check out our pics from Arambol here.

March 8, 2013

Do the Dewalokam! (Thodupuzha, Kerala, India)

If you're looking for a retreat from the chaos of India, and you can afford to splurge, Dewalokam Farm Stay is well worth the time and money spent. 

After spending a few days with Emily and Anna on the lake in Kumarakom (read here), we all hopped in a taxi for the long ride just past Thodhupuza, Kerala. Emily and Anna had been introduced to Dewalokam through a travel agent and, when we saw the website for the property, we decided we would splurge and join them. It's definitely not cheap ($170/night), but that price includes 3 meals a day, tea time (tea/coffee and pastries), and all activities on their property. This kind of place is the exact reason why we search to find $8 and $9 rooms to stay in when we can - spending less when it's not important to us means that we can splurge on somewhere fantastic from time to time.
Us and some of the Dewalokam staff

March 6, 2013

Back Those Waters Up (Kumarakom, Kerala, India)

You might remember that we did a canoe trip on the backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala, back when we first got to India (see here). On that trip, we saw a lot of the gorgeous house boats made of teak and palm and were looking forward to sharing the experience with Emily and Anna for months. After we met up with them in Mumbai (see Steph's post here), we flew down to Kochin and had a taxi drive us two hours south. For Steph and I, it was good to be back into southern India, with the warm weather, palm trees, coconut curries and smiley people.